Hispanics

Sotomayor, Hispanics and the Martinez Resignation

Perhaps no figure in the country has been more on the frontlines of the rising anti-Hispanic rhetoric in the Republican Party than Senator Mel Martinez.   His political ascendency was engineered by Bush and Rove as part of their early - and successful - effort to increase Republican market share with Latinos.   He was placed in the Bush Cabinet, and then backed by the Bush machine heavily in both the GOP primary and the Senate general election in Florida in 2004, as a way of helping create a national Republican Hispanic leader and to help Bush in a state they no doubt considered essential - given what happened in 2000 - in their 2004 re-election. 

After the disasterous 2006 elections, the Bush White House made clear what worried them most by their defeat by appointing Senator Martinez the Chair of the RNC.   The Hispanic vote which had gone from 21% in 1996 to 35% in 2000 to 40% in 2004 had - because of the anti Hispanic rhetoric of the immigration debate in 2005-2006 - dropped all the way down to 30% for the GOP in 2006.   Martinez, who was the sharp edge of the Rovian Hispanic spear, was deployed to help reverse what was clearly a dangerous development for the GOP - the profound alientation of the fastest-growing, and perhaps most strategically placed, part of the American electorate. 

When he was picked to be RNC Chair I predicted Senator Martinez would not last, that the national GOP so long so reactionary on matters of race, would simply not accept a bi-lingual Hispanic immigrant as their Chair.  He lasted till the fall of 2007, overseeing among other things the sight of John McCain going from champion of immigration reform and Hispanics to opponent - all in order to appease the unappeasable anti-immigrant fringe of the Republican Party.   To be clear after leading the GOP for less than a year Senator Martinez felt he could no longer do the job and walked away.

Earlier this year Senator Martinez, clearly now an outlier in his own Party, announced that he would not seek re-election for a 2nd term.  And today, just one day after a Supreme Court vote where he witnessed first hand the reactionary attitudes toward race and Hispanics of his own Senate conference, Mel Martinez choose to not just not run for re-election but leave the Senate and his Republican colleagues altogether. 

I've gotten a lot of questions this week about whether the way the Senate Republicans handled the Sotomayor vote would contribute to the deep alientation Hispanics feel towards the GOP.  I offered some initial thoughts in a post which made it to the front page of the Huffington Post for almost a day.  But perhaps they should ask the only minority in the Republican Senate conference, who, today, announced that he was doing what millions of Hispanics had already chosen to do these last few years - flee the national Republican Party.

Senator Martinez's resignation is yet another victory for those Republicans working to repudiate the sensible Bush/Rove strategy towards race and immigration, and yet another clear indicator of how unattractive the modern GOP's reactionary attitude towards race has become even to members of their own party.

Update - Markos has a great quick polling analysis of how far the GOP has fallen with Latinos this year.

Sotomayor and Our Changing Politics

First, as someone who has been encouraging our nation's leaders to better understand and adapt to the rapid growth of our Hispanic population, today is a very satisfying day.  Despite her incredible qualifications as a judge, Sonia Sotomayor was not a safe or easy pick.  I applaud President Obama, and the Senate, for having the courage and confidence for giving her a chance to serve on the highest court of the land.   When she was chosen a few months ago I released this statement:

"President Obama's historic pick of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to serve on the Supreme Court is an acknowledgment and affirmation of the great demographic changes taking place in America today. Driven by years of immigration, our nation is going through profound change. The percentage of people of color in the United States has tripled in just the past 45 years, and America is now on track become a majority-minority nation in the next 30-40 years. The movement of our nation from a majority white to a more racially complex society is perhaps the single greatest societal change taking place in our great nation today. And if the Supreme Court is to have the societal legitimacy required to do its work, its Justices must reflect and speak to the people of America of the 21st century. The pick of Judge Sotomayor, a highly qualified, twice-Senate confirmed Latina to serve as one of the nine judges overseeing our judicial system, will not only put a thoughtful and highly experienced judge on the Supreme Court, it will go a long way toward making the Supreme Court one that can truly represent the new people and new realities of 21st century America."

Second, I am not surprised that a large majority of the Republicans in the Senate voted against her.  As I discussed at our immigration event earlier this week (see this writeup on the right-leaning site CNS), racial intolerance has been at the very core of the Republican Party's political strategy and ideological argument since Lyndon Johnson, the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts of the mid 1960s.  It became known as the Southern Strategy, and it was this most conscious exploitation of racial fear - Welfare Queens, Tax and Spend, Willie Horton, now criminals crossing the border - that perhaps more than anything else fuelled what we have called the Conservative Ascendancy in recent years.  

We also know today, however, that the conditions which created the opportunity for the success of the Southern Strategy have become a relic of 20th century politics.  But the current Congressional Republican leadership, all brought up and schooled in the successful eara of the Southern Strategy, knows no other politics. They are like an aging baseball pitcher whose fastball no longer pops, or a tv sitcom long past its prime.  They throw that pitch and it gets hit out of the park, that funny joke now falls flat, and these same racial conceits thrown around during the Sotomayor hearings bounce off an America whose people and attitudes towards race are very different from the America of the Southern Strategy era. 

Today's Republican Party is an almost entirely white party in an America which is now one-third non-white.  They are an aging party, holding on to a politics while once successful no longer works in the much more racially diverse America of the 21st century.  And this lack of diversity and long history of racial intolerance has taken its toll on the Republican brand with this fastest growing non-white part of the population, Hispanics.  In a tracking poll taken last week the favorable/unfavorable ratings for the Democratic Party with Hispanics was 53-31; the Republican Party 4 percent favorable, and 85 percent unfavorable.  The ratio for Congressional Democrats with Hispanics 46-34; for Congressional Republicans 5 percent favorable and 83 percent unfavorable.  4 and 5 percent! These are truly incredible numbers. 

As I said in my remarks on Tuesday I think that for the Republicans to get back in the game they will have to do more than just change their racial tune, elect a few more minorities, and begin this long process of modernizing their approach to race.  They will have to eventually acknowledge and repudiate their intolerant past, and their shameful exploitation of racial fear as a national political strategy. But today that day seems a long way off, and I have no doubt that the father of the Republican Party, Abraham Lincoln, if still alive today, would be holding his head down, ashamed of what his once proud Party had become. 

For more on the issues in this essay see this backgrounder, On Judge Sotomayor and America's Changing Demography.

The Biggest Untold Story of the Obama Presidency - White House Outreach to Hispanics

At the 100 day marker of President Barack Obama's time in office there were many articles going over what he's done, has not done, wants to do, will do, etc.  The most important untold story is the way Barack Obama has continued to revolutionize the way in which he communicates with the public - namely, a concerted and unprecedented Hispanic outreach strategy.  Long ago, NDN began arguing the importance of the Hispanic electorate and the importance of speaking in Spanish for candidates and public officials. 

Years later, candidate Barack Obama came along with record-breaking levels of outreach to Hispanics and the first television ad in a U.S. general Presidential election in which the candidate speaks entirely en español.

Now, at the White House, President Obama has continued this full fledged effort to communicate with Hispanics - in English and Spanish - at a level of sophistication never seen before.  Spanish language media has caught on, with major outlets like La Opinión, CNN en Español, and EFE highlighting this unprecedented effort.  Notably, "mainstream" media has not reported on Obama's efforts to reach every corner of the fastest growing electorate - often in their own language.

Most recently, on Friday May 8 the White House held its first ever Spanish-language town hall with Latino activists, community leaders, and health care providers from all over the country.  A feat that Univision (who coordinated the event with the White House) described as "an unprecedented and an historic effort to establish a dialogue with the Hispanic community, the largest minority group in the country."  Click here for the entire video and transcript of the town hall.

Just a few days before the town hall, President Obama continued the practice of celebrating Cinco de Mayo - a date of historical importance for Mexico.  President Obama has also demonstrated a commitment to the "shared challenges" between the U.S. and Mexico and to establishing a new dialogue with the Latin American region through a concerted diplomatic mission.  During March and April this mission took the U.S. Vice President to Chile and Central America, the U.S. Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security, the U.S. Attorney General, and the President himself to Mexico and to the Summit of the Americas.

Prior to his travels, the President announced a historic shift in U.S. policy towards Cuba.  The change in policy was matched by its equally historic presentation, with a briefing in Spanish by Dan Restrepo.  When Mr. Restrepo, Senior Adviser to the President on Latin America, addressed the Spanish-language media in their native tongue, he became the first person to speak a language other than English during a White House briefing:

 

Hispanic voters also love Spanish-language entertainers - President Obama had a guest appearance that rocked the Premios Lo Nuestro award ceremony:

These targeted efforts complement an unprecedented general practice of bi-lingual press and communications by the White House.  President Obama has also held two major interviews with the most popular radio host in the country (who happens to be a Spanish-language radio host), "El Piolin," in addition to already having held four full-length interviews with the two principal Univision News anchors, Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas (two interviews with each).  These examples clearly highlight the way in which President Obama "gets" that most Hispanics (80% by most polls) speak Spanish and listen to Spanish language media, even if they are English-language dominant.  We congratulate the President on his continued efforts to building a new bridge of understanding between the White House and the vast Hispanic community.

NDN Applauds President on his Appearance on El Piolin, and his Commitment to Keeping the Hispanic Community Informed

NDN applauds President Obama's demonstrated commitment to reaching out to Latinos.  President Obama began reaching out to Hispanics during the 2008 campaign through his record amount of Spanish language paid advertisements, by issuing all communications in English and Spanish, and by working to get into the living rooms of Hispanics by appearing on several of the most popular Spanish language programs.  NDN congratulates the President on the continuation of his bilingual press strategy throughout the transition, and now as part of the White House Media Affairs Office.  He gets, it - candidates and public officials need to address Spanish language media and speak in Spanish.   

Yesterday, the President fulfilled his promise to grant an interview to El Piolin, during which he discussed recent achievements, the economic stimulus package and immigration reform.  El Piolin, or Eddie Sotelo, is one of the most televised radio personalities in the nation. His show, Piolin por La Mañana, is the top ranking for morning shows in Los Angeles (regardless of language) and its 50 syndicated markets.  Its growing scope makes it the #1 Radio Show in the country.  Studies indicate that Hispanics are suffering disproportionately in this economic crisis, and Obama's appearance on this show indicates his desire to to reach them directly and let them know he is working on solving this economic crisis.

Big Week Ahead for President Obama

There is little doubt now that the coming week will be a very important one for the nascent Obama Presidency.   On Monday he takes to the road, visiting Indiana and Florida, and speaks to the nation.  Also on Monday Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will offer what now appears to be an outline, or sketch, of the Administration's plan to attack the financial crisis, beginning what will be a very important debate about this part of the emerging recovery plan.  Among the other things we are hoping for is a major initiative to keep people in their homes.  

Also up this week will be the attempt for the Senate and House to reconcile their different stimulus bills into one, and hit the deadline of getting the bill signed by President's day weekend.   Given news reports this morning about the late-night Senate deal, I don't know how easy this is going to be.  

One of the most interesting and important things to watch this week is how the Senate and House come together and "reconcile."   The internal dynamics of these two chambers are very different.   The bills that emerged from each chamber are different.   Will the path forward for future legislation be what we saw with the stimulus - seperate tracks for each chamber - or will the White House and Congressional leadership attempt to prenegotiate the big ones and try to reach a broad outline of a deal that can get through both chambers will little alteration?  How this stimulus bill comes together this week will be a big big test of the ability of the two chambers to reconcile their very different internal politics.

The Republicans.  We learned a lot about them these last few weeks.  Their great test will be whether they can do more than be angry that they are not in power anymore.  The signs so far are not so good. For the good of the nation we need the Republican Party to become a responsibile partner in cleaning up the incredible mess they left us all in.  I think the way The President began to remind the American people of the GOP's role in bringing about the troubles we now face was important - and may be his biggest weapon in bringing them to the table in the many legislative battles ahead (see this Washington Post news story on what could be a fatal political scandal for the new RNC Chairman, Michael Steele).  

Oh, and not to be forgotten, the President signed into law a bill this week that will bring health insurance and good medical care to millions of children who do not have it today.   It was a powerful early signal that the new government can bring people together to tackle our common challenges.  And for those of us optimistic about fixing our broken immigration system this year, that the provision to extend health insurance coverage to all legal immigrant children passed, over initial GOP opposition, is a good sign that reasonable people in both parties can come together and make progress on a broader immigration reform package this year.  

While there are pieces of the package we could do without, the emerging economic recovery plan is a very responsible and serious attempt to address the economic challenges of our time, and it contains many provisions long argued for by NDN.  President Obama and his team should be pleased with where things stand now - on their first major initiative they've shown far-sightedness, political dexterity and resolve.   But the next few days are very important, and will tell us much about our ability to meet the challenges ahead.

Sat 10pm Update - The NYTimes has a good piece running in the Sunday paper looking at the differences between the Senate and House bills.

Steele, the GOP and Confronting the Southern Strategy

Michael Steele had a lot to overcome. One of his opponents, the sitting GOP Chair from South Carolina, had just resigned from an all white country club and admitted that he became a Republican in reaction to his personal experience with desegregation. Another opponent, Chip Saltsman, sent out a wildly racist CD to RNC Members which included the now infamous Magic Negro and Star Spanglish Banner songs. Saltsman was so battered by his out-of-touch comments that he withdrew from the race before the balloting began. But Katon Dawson, the SC Chair, went all the way to the final ballot before losing to Steele.

What a stark choice this was for the Republicans: an avowed disciple of the Southern Strategy era of racial politics vs. an African-American candidate from that awfully liberal, pretty far north state of Maryland. That Steele won, defeating Saltsman and Dawson, is a hopeful sign that the GOP has begun to confront its shameful exploitation of race as a national political strategy over the past 44 years. But the road back to power for the Party Mr. Steele has chosen to lead is a hard one. As I recently wrote:

Their recent success as a national Party was built on an approach towards race that spoke to a different racial reality in America, an American one where could get away with magic negro songs, and much much worse of course. But that America - a white/black, majority/minority America - is now an historic relic, and is in the process of being replaced by an America that has 3 times as many minorities as it did just 44 years ago, and is on track to be majority minority by 2042 (for more on this historic demographic transformation see here). But for many in the GOP, including ones who might become their Chairman, they know no other politics than this Southern Strategy era politics, a politics that has been rejected once and for all by the American people of today's America.

It is important that the leaders of the GOP have begun to confront its shameful racial past. But their problem has no simple or easy fix. It will require a complete refashioning of their politics around a very different set of 21st century demographics and a much more tolerant understanding of race in America - and a complete and utter repudiation of much of their domestic agenda for the past half century. Which is major reason why I think their road back is such a long one - many of their leaders came to power by becoming expert in this kind of politics; it is the core play in their playbook; it is the foundation of their domestic agenda; and they know little else. Their old Southern Strategy dogs aren't going to learn new tricks - for the GOP they will have to slowly, over time, replace their anachronistic leaders with ones schooled in the modern governing challenges, modern media and technology and modern demography of our day. The process of watching this generational replacement take place will be one of the most interesting political stories of the next 10-20 years, and of course has become all the more necessary in the age of Obama.

Recall that one of Mr. Steele's predecessors as RNC Chairman, Senator Mel Martinez of Florida, resigned in 2007 after less than a year on the job because of the lingering intolerance of the Party of Saltsman, Tancredo, Limbaugh and Dawson. So these tensions in the GOP - and the nation - will continue to play out for some time as old attitudes and people give way to new racial attitudes and a new America.

Just yesterday, Mr. Steele showed how hard this adjustment would be for the GOP. As Huffington Post's Sam Stein reported, Steele was asked on Fox News whether the GOP's position on immigration had alienated the Latino vote for a generation. His answer? No, of course. Hispanics really agree with our position calling for continued exploitation and demonization of Hispanics, but we just didn't message it very well. Score one for the nativists.

So, all in all, Mr. Steele's election is a hopeful sign for the GOP and the nation. His Party not only chose a new path in electing him their new Chair, they rejected candidates who would have sent a very bad signal about the values of the GOP in this new age of Obama. But as we saw with the irresponsible House stimulus vote last week, old ways die hard, and the choice of Steele alone does not a new Party make.

NDN Participates in Latino Political Action Training Day, Pre-Inaugural Day Weekend

Washington, D.C. - Today, Simon and Andres will address approximately 100 Latino organizers, community leaders, and individuals interested in increasing the civic participation of Latinos from approximately 20 different states. 

It is most fitting that Simon and Andres begin the day's program, reflecting on Latino vote in 2008.  NDN's most significant accomplishment has been our advocacy for what we have called the "new politics."  For years NDN has made the case that a new politics was emerging in America, driven by three major changes: 1) the emergence of a new governing agenda and priorities, 2) the emergence of a whole new media and technology construct that was fundamentally changing the way we communicate and advocate, and 3) the emergence of a new American people, one very different from the demographic makeup of the U.S. in previous decades.  As part of this third pillar of the new politics, NDN has made the case to progressives and those on the center-left that for us to succeed as a 21st century movement, we must involve Hispanics and encourage Latino participation in politics. 

This day-long event is intended to serve as one major step to ensure that Hispanics continue to build on the momentum built by their participation in the 2008 elections, and engage civically.  Panelists are experts in the areas of political organizing, media strategy, and advocacy.  Attendees are coming to this pre-Inauguration event from AZ, CA, CO, D.C., FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, MA, MD, NV, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, PR, TX, VA.

LATINO POLITICAL TRAINING DAY
Más que nuestro voto: The New Latino Movement

Saturday, January 17, 2009
8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
National Council of La Raza Headquarters
Raul Yzaguirre Building, Washington, D.C.
1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, D.C.

Honorary Co-Hosts

Rep. Xavier Becerra & Rep. Linda Sanchez

Schedule & Speakers
8:30-9:30 a.m.  Registration. Continental breakfast. Activity on challenges facing the Latino community.

9:30 a.m. Official Opening & Welcome Remarks

9:35-10:35 a.m.  Reflection on 2008 Election

Simon Rosenberg, President of NDN
Andres Ramirez, Vice President for Hispanic Programs at NDN
Temo Figueroa, Obama campaign Latino Vote Director

10:35-11:35 a.m. Political Fundraising

Gabriela Lemus, Director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement
Regina Montoya, Poder PAC member, previous congressional candidate in 200, and previous chief executive of the New America Alliance

11:35 a.m.-12:35 p.m. Media Outreach

Estuardo Rodríguez, Raben Group
Fabiola Rodríguez-Ciampoli, Rep. Xavier Becerra Communications Director and former Hispanic Communications Director for Hillary Clinton's Presidential Campaign

12:35- 1:50 p.m. Lunch and Conversation with Latino Leaders

Moderator: Adolfo Gonzales, Ed.D., National City Police Chief
Mireya Falcon, Mayor, Achichilco, Hidalgo, Mexico
Delia Garcia, Kansas State Representative
Victor Ramirez, Maryland State Assembly
Emma Violand-Sanchez, Arlington County School Board

2:00-3:00 p.m. Advocacy/Lobbying

Sam Jammal, MALDEF
Larry Gonzalez, Raben Group
Alma Marquez, Green Dot Public Schools

3:00-4:00 p.m. Community Organizing
Introduction: Dario Collado, Harvard University Latino Leadership Initiative
Marshall Ganz, Harvard Professor and designer of "Camp Obama" organizing strategies for Barack Obama's presidential campaign.
Jeremy Byrd, former Ohio General Election Director, Barack Obama's Campaign for Change
Carlos Odio, Deputy Latino Vote Director, Obama for America

4:15-5:00 p.m. Regional Break out sessions

Participants will break into groups based on their geographic region to reflect on lessons learned during the course of the training, key issues to address, and next steps.

5:15 p.m. Closing Remarks

Melody Gonzales, New Latino Movement Committee Chair

Stephanie Valencia, Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs, Presidential Transition Team and Deputy Latino Vote Director, Obama for America

The Census Confirms: The U.S. Increasingly More Southern and Western

On Monday, the U.S. Census Bureau released its estimates of state-by-state population, which show a decades-long pattern continuing apace: growth in the country's Southern and Western states continues to out-pace that in the states of the Northeast and Midwest.  Sound familiar? Yes, that's because you heard it here first.  Since NDN began its analysis of the Hispanic electorate and the demographic trends nationwide, we concluded that our nation is becoming:

 

 

 

 

 

Some have criticized President-elect Obama for having a Western-heavy cabinet and administration, and while this might not have been intentional, it does reflect the demographic trends of the nation.  Finally, the Census data is important because it provides our first clues as to re-districting based on the 2010 Census - for example, Texas is expected to gain three House seats, Nevada will most likely gain at least one. Stay tuned as NDN continues its demographic analysis during 2009, in preparation for re-districting analysis. 

The Obama Administration Reflects 21st Century America

Over the past week the number of Hispanics/Latinos in Barack Obama's administration jumped to 7 individuals, an historic number, with the appointments of U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar and U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis.  Even before this week, Obama was already receiving praise for setting a record of top Hispanics in the Cabinet (full First Read Cabinet Census listed here).  The number of senior Latino staff to the White House might increase once again, if Adolfo Carrion is in fact named to head the White House Office of Urban Policy.  The Latinos named to the administration so far, and their posts: 

- Gov. Bill Richardson (NM), Secretary of Commerce
- Nancy Sutley (of an Argentine mother), Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality
- Moises "Mo" Vela, Director of Administration Office of the Vice President
- Luis Caldera, White House Military Office
- Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
- U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO), Secretary of the Interior
- U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA), Secretary of Labor

Additionally, Rep. Xavier Becerra was approached for the position of USTR, but it is reported that he decided to remain in the House of Representatives.  Rep. Becerra and others have been asked by the Spanish-language media if they feel that the number of Hispanics named is "sufficient," which completely misses the point of what these appointments mean.  As stated by Rahm Emanuel, "diversity wasn't the driving force here....most importantly, the quality is of a single standard.  We wanted to make sure that we got a great staff of seasoned people - both on the policy front and political front - who knew their stuff."  What we celebrate is not that Hispanics are filling some sort of quota, we celebrate that the new administration is inclusive and receptive of talent, regardless of background and ethnicity, and we celebrate that the Latinos being named are leaders who have excelled in their respective fields.   We celebrate that Latinos are not only a growing demographic, but that it is finally out in the open that they are also a part of the most talented pools of leadership in the United States.

As Simon has stated, these appointments mean that Democrats - and President-elect Obama - are working to build a very 21st century, and potentially durable, coalition.  They are discovering the new electoral map of this new century, and employ the latest and potent tools to engange the American people.  Obama particularly engages the Latino community through his Spanish-language updates and press releases on the inauguration, and through the Spanish translation of all his press releases and weekly address.  

NDN congratulates all of the Presidential nominees, particularly our friends and collaborators - Rep. Hilda Solis is a longtime friend of NDN's and provided important support to our affiliate Latino voter mobilization campaign, Adelante 08.  Gov. Richardson and Sen. Salazar are also longtime friends and formed part of NDN's founding advisory board. The nomination of our fellow Latinos not only demonstrates the power of the Latino vote, it is a reflection of the reality of our nation's demographic makeup and reflect's our nation's true mixed racial and ethnic identity.  We congratulate President-elect Obama's commitment to reflecting the talent that comes from this racial reality in his Administration. Moreover,  these appointments are proof of our community's abilities - these Latinos are also the most qualified people for the job. 

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